The Movies That Changed My Life: ‘Tramps’ Director Adam Leon

With only two feature films under his belt to date, writer/director Adam Leon has made a big noise by using very little. His breakout film, “Gimme The Loot,” was fresh, exciting, and low-key caper film that captured the attention of SXSW, Cannes, and beyond. For his followup, Leon tells another intimate, authentic New York City story with “Tramps.” Premiering last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival, it may not have had glitzy A-list stars, but the crowd-pleasing charmer sparked a small bidding war, with streaming titans Netflix coming out on top.

Starring Callum Turner and Grace Van Patten, the story unfolds over a couple of days, and follows an aspiring chef and a young woman looking for a better life, who find themselves pulled into a low-level crime scheme that goes wrong, and are forced to try and set things right. Along the way, a quiet romance bubbles, and the film offers a unique take on coming-of-age.

“Tramps” hits Netflix on April 21st, and Adam Leon recently sat down in front of the computer and filled us in the films that inspired him, and marked his journey as a director.

Dolph Lundgren in Masters of the Universe (1987)What’s the first movie that you remember seeing in the theater?
I have glimpses of seeing “Masters of the Universe.” My mom says, “probably some Care Bear kind of thing.”

The best moviegoing film experience you ever had.
After college I had a bullshit job sitting by myself in a store-front real estate office. I read about Jacques Tati‘s “Playtime” showing at the Film Society in the Village Voice and said, “Screw it,” left work, smoked a joint, and walked through Central Park in the snow. I got to the theater and it was particularly electric in the room. There were all of these strange and beautiful people there — artists, Upper West Side eccentrics, I think Lili Taylor sat behind me.

The movie starts and it’s one of the most amazing and astounding pieces of art I’ve ever encountered. I was stunned, I couldn’t believe this magical thing existed. And I just thought, “This is where I belong, with these people in this place surrounded by movies.” I’m actually getting a little emotional writing this. It was a real moment in my life and I thank bullshit jobs, marijuana, Central Park, Lili Taylor, the Film Society, and mostly Jacques Tati for it.

Star Wars A New HopeThe first film you saw that made you realize you wanted to be a filmmaker.
The original “Star Wars” trilogy when I was about five. Once I realized someone directed that, I wanted to do that too.

The first film you saw that you realize you could be a filmmaker.
Hmm, it was a probably a bad movie. “Oh, I can do at least that.” But in terms of great movies, maybe some nineties indie films like Nicole Hoelfencer‘s “Walking and Talking.” My dad took me to see that when I was a young teen because of a “Siskel and Ebert” review. I remember feeling that this was a real person telling this story in a personal and genuine way and that she also liked video stores and Yo La Tengo. Maybe there is a place for me here in this world that I could be a part of too.